It’s no secret that Chicago’s weather can be downright nasty: our summers are swampy, our springs are grey, and while children in other cities have snow days, Chicago kids are no stranger to “cold days.” Sure, the local TV meteorologist will say it’s “cooler by the lake,” but many summer days are too stifling to even consider a day at the beach. And of course, we still have the spooky image of cars trapped on Lake Shore Drive during Snowpocalypse 2011 emblazoned in our collective memory. But even if the forecast is bad during your visit, the city has plenty to offer when the weather is less than ideal.
Revival Food Hall
125 S Clark St
There’s no better way to stay warm than eating and drinking your way through Chicago’s most acclaimed culinary marketplace, Revival Food Hall. Over 15 vendors fill the first floor of the National, a historic 1907 building designed by Daniel Burnham. You’ll be tempted to enter with a game plan: brisket sandwich from Smoque, a scoop of gelato from Black Dog, and a maybe small coffee from Revival Café-Bar. However, after exploring your options, that brisket sandwich might sound even better with some fried chicken from the Budlong, and it would only be right to put that gelato over a HotChocolate Bakery cookie. As for that small coffee, why not a coffee cocktail?
Garfield Park Conservatory
300 N Central Park Ave
In the depths of the city’s winter, it’s hard to imagine a time when you didn’t have to pile on layers of clothing and moisturizer. Luckily, a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory can be the perfect remedy for seasonal sadness and dry skin. It’s easy to spend a whole day breathing in the fragrance of jasmine flowers or watching koi fish swim around glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly. Bring the Jurassic Park audiobook to the Fern Room and be transported back to Chicago’s swampy prehistoric days. Take a notebook to the Aroid House and write a poem for all the houseplants you’ve killed over the years. With the tropical Palm House and a desert room, the Conservatory is also a damn good consolation for those of us who can’t afford a vacation.
Gene Siskel Film Center
164 N State St
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and there’s no better way to understand the city than to explore its communities on foot. However, sometimes rainstorms lay waste to your best walking itineraries, and you’ve just gotta post up somewhere indoors. Catching a screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center will give almost any storm enough time to pass. It’s home to a number of annual festivals, including the Asian American Showcase, the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, and the Black Harvest Film Festival, as well as a number of film series throughout the year. There’s always an opportunity to support diverse voices in independent and international films at the Siskel Center—just remember this when you’re grumbling about the price of popcorn.
Art Institute of Chicago
111 S Michigan Ave
If you’re a coastal person who thinks you’re too good for Lake Michigan beaches, you’re just plain wrong. Ask any Chicagoan who grew up birdwatching at the bird sanctuary at Montrose Beach or enjoying a bonfire at Promontory Point after a day at 57th Street Beach, and they’ll tell you what you’ve been missing. But if that doesn’t convince you, spend a sweltering day inside the Art Institute of Chicago instead. Admittedly, the museum’s expansiveness makes it almost impossible to see everything in a single visit, but for first-timers, there are some must-sees. Take the Grand Staircase up to the second floor for Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Grant Wood’s American Gothic in the Modern American galleries and for Georges Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte in the Impressionism galleries. For contemporary art enthusiasts, the Modern Wing is a museum-within-a-museum, displaying works by lots of heavy-hitters (Cy Twombly! Cindy Sherman! Takashi Murakami!) and sweeping views of the Chicago skyline.